Battle between police and Coquitlam, B.C. Cactus Club over surveillance video

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Battle between police and Coquitlam Cactus Club over surveillance video
A red tape battle between police and a well-known restaurant chain over surveillance video connected to a double shooting has prompted the provincial government to step in. Kristen Robinson reports – Feb 27, 2024

The province of B.C. has stepped in to alter a business liquor licence after one location of a popular restaurant chain initially refused to provide its surveillance video to RCMP following a recent shooting outside its premises.

When gun violence plays out in public, police sometimes canvass private businesses – including bars and restaurants – for security footage, which is usually handed over without a fight, according to the BC Restaurant and Foodservices Association (BCRFA).

“The general protocol is for people to give up, not just restaurants, but people to give up video to help and assist the police in a manner that’s fairly quick,” said president and CEO Ian Tostenson.

But in a decision that stunned British Columbia’s public safety minister, the Cactus Club Cafe on Barnet Highway in Coquitlam told RCMP to get a warrant when officers requested surveillance footage after a Feb. 11 shooting in the restaurant’s parking lot.

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“It’s the first time it’s crossed my desk that there has been a refusal to initially comply with police request for video,” Mike Farnworth told Global News in an interview Tuesday.

A man and woman found wounded in a vehicle were hospitalized following the overnight shooting outside the Cactus Club Cafe.

At the time, RCMP asked witnesses or anyone with dash-cam, surveillance or cell phone video from between 10:30 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 12:30 a.m. on Feb. 12 to contact them.

“We had a gangland shooting in the vicinity with cameras that took place, like right near there and they (the Cactus Club) were asked to cooperate and provide what surveillance videos that they had, and they said go and get a warrant,” said Farnworth, visibly upset. “That’s just not acceptable, and I don’t believe the public would accept that either.”

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Farnworth said RCMP did obtain a warrant to secure the requested surveillance footage.

Click to play video: '2 people sent to hospital after Coquitlam shooting'
2 people sent to hospital after Coquitlam shooting

Coquitlam mayor Richard Stewart paid a visit to the Cactus Club location Tuesday, after learning what transpired.

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“For a local business to insist that the RCMP get a warrant for information that they might have that could lead to an arrest is outrageous,” Stewart told Global News. “I want to know their side of it, it doesn’t make sense to me.”

Global News asked the Cactus Club why it would not hand over its surveillance video.

In a statement, the Canadian restaurant chain with 32 locations in B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario said it always cooperates with law enforcement agencies.

“The process of requesting a production order before releasing surveillance footage is a standard practice put in place across all of our locations. This protects privacy and ensures we’re following the law.”

Cactus Club Cafe added that it will “continue to support the efforts of the RCMP and law enforcement in our communities”.

The restaurant chain did not respond when asked how long this has been standard practice at all Cactus Club locations.

On Jan.7, 2014, a man was shot inside the Cactus Club on Kingsway across from Metrotown in Burnaby – and on May 13, 2021, a man with gang ties was killed and two others were injured in a shooting outside the Byrne Road Cactus Club in Burnaby. It’s unclear if those locations required RCMP to secure warrants for the release of their surveillance footage.

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In the most recent case, Farnworth said the province has since amended the terms and conditions of the Barnet Highway Cactus Club’s liquor licence.

“They must have video surveillance and they must provide it to the police or a liquor inspector upon request,” said the public safety minister.

Tostenson said his organization was surprised to learn of the incident with Cactus Club but noted some restaurant groups are very large and very corporate, and likely guided by privacy and legal issues.

“It’s not, I don’t think, a situation where they don’t want to,” said Tostenson in an interview. “I think it’s a question of let’s make sure before it gets released that were being a bit cautious here and protecting privacy.”

The BCRFA, which provides guidance to the hospitality industry in terms of best practices, has never been challenged on the issue of surveillance footage he said, and it may be time to try to create a consistent standard across the board.

“This probably raises the question what should be best practices that restaurants should follow,” said Tostenson.

Click to play video: 'Questions for RCMP after White Rock shooting'
Questions for RCMP after White Rock shooting

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